Four brothers were taking a post-dinner walk in their Santa Ana neighborhood in April 2007 when a vehicle drove up and stopped. The occupants were from Orange County's Darkside criminal street gang, and they wanted to know if the brothers were "gangbanging."
The brothers said no, but a fight ensued, and the Darkside crew pointed guns and pulled the triggers.
Embarrassingly, the guns repeatedly misfired, causing the brothers to ask if the weapons were toys.
Then the driver got out. Though old, his .38-caliber Colt handgun worked. Four or five gunshots went off, killing one of the brothers. The vehicle with the assailants sped off into the night.
Now, if you'd just murdered someone with a gun, and the fatal bullet you'd lodged into your victim's chest could be traced back to that gun, what's the one thing even a semi-smart killer would do?
That's right: quickly get rid of that gun. Certainly don't be caught by police holding it.
Sadly for 19-year-old Darkside hoodlum and convicted felon Freddy "Freaks" Rodriguez, the successful shooter during the street fight with those brothers, he couldn't think of that simple move on his own, and none of his homeboys thought to give him good advice.
The night after the murder, two Santa Ana cops entered an apartment complex on an unrelated call, encountered Rodriguez and watched him flee while tossing a gun over a fence.
Forensic testing proved that gun was the murder weapon in the incident with the four brothers and held DNA linking it to Rodriguez.
After his arrest, Freaks tried to argue the gun wasn't his and that he'd left the Darkside gang. But the cops, who had a detailed file on him, noted new shin tattoos: a "D" and an "S." While awaiting trial, Rodriguez also sent communications around the Orange County Jail in which he referred to himself with his gang moniker. Oops.
An April 2010 jury convicted him, and Superior Court Judge Dan McNerney sentenced him to prison.
Rodriguez appealed, citing a lack of credible evidence against him. He also correctly noted that the surviving brothers had failed to pick him out of a police lineup after his arrest.
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But this month, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana considered his arguments and determined that the evidence--mainly the gun--was strong enough for a jury to reasonably find him guilty.
Upshot: Convicted felon plus gun possession plus murder plus gang membership equals disaster.
Because he was dumb enough to carry inside his waistband a weapon hours after it was used in a murder, Rodriguez will get to think about his mistake in a California hellhole for . . . the rest of his life. When he's done serving that sentence, he'll still owe an additional 30 years in prison, according to McNerney's punishment order. His life in freedom ended at just 19.